By Barb McKay
The perception that municipal staff is resisting Team Kincardine in its plan to co-locate downtown with a visitor information centre is the result of a misunderstanding, according to Kincardine’s CAO.
Murray Clarke told The Independent on Friday that staff’s decision to look at the Arts Centre as a potential location for a visitor information office downtown comes from the direction it was given by council.
Last week, members of Team Kincardine (BIA, Chamber of Commerce and PREDC) revealed that they had chosen a vacant office space on
Ron Coristine, a director on the PREDC board and a member of the newly-formed Tourism Table, sat down with The Independent on Thursday to talk about tourism and economic development-related initiatives. He said Team Kincardine developed a strategic plan for tourism, but it received underwhelming support from council. The group and the Tourism Table have been working hard to further Kincardine tourism and help support downtown businesses, Coristine said. The groups are working on a number of initiatives, including finding shoulder season events and activities that could provide businesses with additional revenue to carry them through the winter months. To accomplish these goals, the groups would prefer to work co-operatively with municipal staff, Coristine stressed.
Co-locating downtown would allow the BIA, Chamber, PREDC and tourism staff to share resources, Coristine said. The preferred location was selected because it is centrally-located and move in ready. Coristine said the groups would split the cost of rent ($1,600) with the municipality. He noted that the municipality’s share would be comparable to what it currently pays for the visitor information centre space on Highway 21. Their plan is to discontinue the use of that location.
“Part of it is building a sense of community and some excitement downtown,” Coristine said. “It’s not about us being smarter or better, we just want to work together.”
But Clarke said when Kincardine council directed staff on Nov. 6 to bring back a report with a plan to locate visitor services downtown, it was to create a primary location downtown, with washrooms, and maintain a satellite location on the highway. At no point, he said, did that request include sharing space with Team Kincardine.
“This is the direction we were given and council was very clear,” Clarke said. “No mention of co-location, no mention of shared services with other groups.”
That does not mean that staff is against the idea, he added.
“The work (done by Team Kincardine) to look at co-locating is very interesting and if council direction changes then it will be very helpful.”
At the same time that municipal staff was looking at how to move visitor services downtown, it was also preparing a report on how the municipality should tackle necessary interior renovations at the Arts Centre. Through the process, Clarke said, staff began to look at the municipally-owned building as a viable option for visitor services.
Clarke said he and other members of staff met with Arts Centre tenants, including the Kincardine Theatre Guild, Bluewater Summer Playhouse and Victoria Park Gallery, recently and he acknowledged that there was some resistance to the idea of setting up a visitor information centre in the building. He said he hopes to meet with the tenants again this week to go over a report that shows details of how to integrate visitor services.
“I feel there may be other advantages to having our staff in the building,” Clarke said.
Staff could manage a theatre box office directly at the Arts Centre for the theatre groups and provide more exposure for the gallery. In addition, staff could potentially accept bookings for accommodations and attractions in the municipality.
Clarke said staff plans to present the plan to council early next month.